March 14 – A Memory from my Catholic Upbringing

Growing up, I went to St. James Catholic school for K-8th grade. I wore a grey and maroon plaid jumper with a Peter Pan collared white shirt and maroon sweater. I had some nuns for teachers and some regular ladies as teachers. I sat in rows, learned to read using Dick and Jane, and an SRA kit and went to school Mass once a month and on Sundays with my mom and siblings. I was taught to be dutiful and I worked hard at being good, following the rules imposed by the priests. nuns and teachers. I didn’t question why, I just did what I was told to do.

During Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas), we gradually lit the three purple and one pink candle each week awaiting the Christmas holiday. Just before Christmas break, the whole student body gathered for Carol Night in the church. Each grade took turns singing a carol as the story of Christmas was retold for the parents and parishioners. Thinking back, Dona Nobis Pacem (Latin for Grant Us Peace), immediately comes to mind. I can still sing it by heart as a round. When googling to spell the title of this song correctly, I fould this video:
Chorus singing Dona Nobis Pacem in round .
Listening to the video, it is exactly what I recall my class sounding like. Yet, my class was dressed in our best Christmas outfits sitting in a large, beautiful Gothic-looking church.

I participated in Carol Night all nine years while being a student at St. James. Yet, this is the only song I recall singing. Why? Maybe because it was the first time I got to sing in another language. Maybe because it was such a challenge to sing it in a round. I do remember being yelled at as a class by Sr. Maria George. She had us practice it over and over and over again. It seemed that the 4th graders were being singled out and had to practice this more than any other grade had to practice their song. But then, on the night, at our time, the practice paid off. We sounded beautiful and our timing for the round was perfected.

At the moment, I am part of a teacher inquiry group studying how we might guide our students to have a growth mindset over a fixed mindset (based on work by Carol Dwek). Thinking about this song, I wonder if it was also a time I experienced a growth mindset. At first, as a class, we failed to sing well. But then, through practice and practice and practice, we finally got it! And now 40 years later, I can still sing it correctly.

I wonder if I am helping my students to practice their writing or reading enough so that 40 years from now, they will recall a school memory where their hard work related to literacy paid off??!!

6 thoughts on “March 14 – A Memory from my Catholic Upbringing

  1. Raeily says:

    Such a neat memory. I remember practicing for the Christmas Day choir. I till know my favorite song.

    You are definitely making memories your students will remember 40 years from now.


  2. Jackie says:

    I am so glad you posted the link to the song. It brought back memories for me too. I remember singing it…and I remember our middle school students singing it…such pure young voices. One of my favorite songs that we sang was 'Lo How a Rose'. thanks for the memories….of Dick and Jane and the good old SRA kit! Jackie


  3. Marilyn Miner says:

    I love the crisp recall of your writing in this piece. It adds to the importance and immediacy of the memory. I have been practicing some music today for church tomorrow – it still amazes me that the things I play best are the pieces I so diligently practiced as a teenager and young adult. Those hours of early practice pay off over and over and over. Bless you, Sally. You are a treasure.


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